Andy Murray won the most prestigious pro tournament, Wimbledon, in 2013.
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The main difference between tennis professionals and amateurs is that tennis pros earn money by playing or teaching tennis. A few people, of course, will fall into gray areas. A fitness instructor at a health club, for example, may lead some exercise classes and also give tennis lessons. A decent player might earn a few dollars on the side at local tournaments. But neither of these individuals would typically be considered a true tennis pro. If you're looking for a pro -- to teach you the game, for example -- seek a certified professional.
Until 1968, the best known tennis tournaments -- including all the grand slam events -- were reserved for amateurs. As a result, many of the game's top players were amateurs. To earn a living from competitive tennis, players had to give up hopes of winning events such as Wimbledon and join a professional tour. Previously-barred professional players were permitted to play at Wimbledon and other grand slam tournaments at the start of what's now known as the вЂњOpen EraвЂќ in 1968.
The Association of Tennis Professionals sanctions the top men's pro tennis tournaments worldwide. The ATP also runs a Challenger Tour -- essentially for younger players trying to develop their games and move up to the ATP World Tour -- and the Champions Tour, for older pros who've retired from top-level play. The Women's Tennis Association is the worldwide governing body for women's pro tennis. Amateur players may compete in pro tournaments, but may not accept any prize money if they wish to retain their amateur status.
Amateur players compete at all levels of tennis, although it's extremely unusual to see an amateur in the final rounds of a major pro tournament. In the United States, you'll find strong amateur players competing in high school and college, as well as junior tournaments sponsored by the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA). The USTA also sponsors amateur team tennis leagues.
Tennis Pro Certification
Technically, anyone who has a student willing to pay for tennis lessons may be considered a professional tennis teacher. In the U.S., however, two large organizations offer well-recognized tennis coaching certification programs. The United States Professional Tennis Association offers an Accredited Professional Coach designation. Prospective coaches must take a course, pass an online exam and accumulate 20 continuing education credits in a two-year period. Certification with the Professional Tennis Registry requires applicants to attend a workshop and pass an online test.